Skip to main content

Nintendo’s Zelda movie needs to be nothing like The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The long-rumored The Legend of Zelda live-action movie is actually happening, with Nintendo confirming that it’s officially in production. It’s a logical move following The Super Mario Bros. Movie, one of the year’s highest-grossing films. Video game adaptations appear to be in fashion more than ever before — seemingly dethroning superhero movies in the process — and it’s undeniably exciting to see more and more of my favorite franchises make their way to the big screen.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.

It’s not the talent behind the movies. Writer Derek Connolly did a decent job adapting a video game world into a live-action with Detective Pikachu, director Wes Ball has experience adapting a beloved property into a film with the Maze Runner series, and Avi Arad has worked on some of my favorite superhero movies. What worries me, though, is that the fan service-heavy approach that made The Super Mario Bros. Movie click with me after some initial frustrations isn’t a formula that can be as satisfying if replicated with a The Legend of Zelda movie. It’s an entirely different beast.

More than fan service

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a film that relies very heavily on fan service and nostalgia. It’s neither a very long movie, nor very deep thematically. It’s a movie that’s easy to pick apart, and many critics did. It’s also a film tailor-made for video game fans like me to turn their brains off and enjoy. I had more fun with The Super Mario Bros. Movie when I was looking at the background for Easter eggs and anticipating what characters, power-ups, or iconic locations it would feature next, rather than critically assessing every small part of it.

Clearly, many other people were able to do that with the movie, leading to a massive box office return. However, with a movie based on The Legend of Zelda, this approach will only get Nintendo so far. The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s most narrative-focused series, with an intricate timeline full of distinct characters and settings. When I think about a The Legend of Zelda adaptation, I expect something that respects the material like Peter Jackson’s Lord of Rings or early MCU films, not a reference-filled grab bag that I shouldn’t take too seriously.

Mario and Peach walk through a mushroom field in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures

Considering that the movie will be in live action, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to mash the series’ varied history into one movie like Nintendo and Illumination did with The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Seeing The King of Red Lions, Skull Kid, and Sidon all together playing the Ocarina, Wind Waker, and Ultrahand to help Link defeat Ganon — or something equally absurd — is the kind of moment that The Super Mario Bros. Movie wouldn’t be above doing. A Zelda movie needs to reject that fan service desire lest it becomes about as memorable as Hyrule Warriors.

Of course, Nintendo has a lot of iconography to pull from. Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf all seem like surefire inclusions in a Legend of Zelda movie, and I wouldn’t be surprised if characters like Navi and Tingle play a significant role in the movie. Seeing all of those adapted to the big screen will create fleeting moments of joy, but I take the lore and narrative of The Legend of Zelda more seriously than I do with the Super Mario Bros. franchise. I imagine many players are in the same boat as me.

I can watch The Super Mario Bros. Movie and not care that it doesn’t perfectly align with the narratives of Super Mario Sunshine or Donkey Kong Country. I’ll have a more challenging time being OK with that approach in a live-action Legend of Zelda adaptation that ignores the precedent of games like Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, and Breath of the Wild.

Link waving in Wind Waker HD.
Nintendo

In a The Legend of Zelda movie, I’m going to care a lot more about the quality of the writing, acting, and tonal and thematic coherence of the story. Nintendo may go for a straight-up adaptation of a game like Ocarina of Time or Breath of the Wild, but that would feel more uninspired, boring, and not in line with the creativity and innovative spirit that Nintendo is known for. To make a The Legend of Zelda film the best it can be, Ball might need to create wholly original lore and characters that fit within the franchise’s framing, which is a much more daunting task as people will compare it to what’s present in games like Tears of the Kingdom.

I still want some fan service and recognizable iconography, as that’s a big part of what makes most video game adaptations enjoyable, but a live-action adaptation of a franchise like The Legend of Zelda requires a more thematically compelling execution. Hopefully, that’s what we get whenever it hits theaters.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
Super Mario RPG is halfway between a remaster and remake
Mario, Mallow, Bowser, and Geno stare off-screen in Super Mario RPG.

Between The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Super Mario Bros. Wonder, it’s been a banner year for the Italian video game icon – and it’s not over yet. On November 17, Nintendo will cap off a successful 2023 with the hotly anticipated Super Mario RPG. The surprising release brings back one of the plumber’s most eccentric adventures, 1996’s Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo. It’s a neglected cult classic that’s been long overdue for some attention.

The question, though, is what kind of treatment a title like that deserves. Should Nintendo simply have rereleased it on Switch Online? Would an HD remaster suffice? Or was a full remake in order? If the Switch version is any indication, Nintendo may have found itself a little stumped with that question too.

Read more
The best video games of October 2023: Mario, Spider-Man 2, and more
Spider-Man soars through the air in a biomechanical suit in Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

October 2023 was one of the best months for video games in a long time. From the indie to the AAA space, there was a spectacular new game coming out every few days. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Super Mario Bros. Wonder arrived and improved upon their predecessors in almost every way, while indies like Jusant and Wargroove 2 hit the scene with fresh ideas. While the phrase “there’s something for everyone” is played out in the game industry, that truly felt like it was the case this month.
Having so much to play can also be overwhelming, though. Players are left to sift through which titles are worth checking out, which are fine, and which should be passed up entirely. To help you out on that search, I’ve rounded up our seven favorite games released during the blockbuster gaming month of October 2023.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Nintendo dropped a brand new 2D Mario game this month, and it's outstanding. Super Mario Bros. Wonder lives up to its namesake, eliciting a sense of wonder with its expertly designed levels that reward players who poke around in them and also feature Wonder Effects that can drastically change what players are doing on the stage. From singing Piranha Plants to a top-down perspective shift, Super Mario Bros. Wonder stays consistently fresh and creative the whole way through.
“With its wealth of unpredictable levels, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the series’ best 2D entry since its SNES days,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-star review of Super Mario Bros. Wonder. “It’s still the same familiar platformer, but one that’s been given a new lease on life thanks to a fantastic new art style, delightfully absurd transformations, and flexible difficulty. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to recapturing those magic moments with the original platformers, even if there’s still room for Mario to grow into his new overalls.”
Personally, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is my favorite game of the year and one that I know will appeal to gamers of all ages and skill levels. If you only play one game on this list, I urge you to make it this one. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is available now exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2

Read more
Our 10 favorite Wonder Effects in Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Wonder Flower in Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder's defining gimmick is its series of Wonder Effects. A Wonder Flower is hidden somewhere on almost every level and, once found, radically switches up what is going on within that stage. Some expand on ideas the stage was already exploring, while others are wildly unpredictable, giving players something they were not expecting at all.

There are over 69 stages with Wonder Effects that players can see while playing through the story of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, but 10 of those Wonder Effects effects stood out the most during my playthrough. By order of appearance, these are my 10 favorite Wonder Effects in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which showcase just how inventive and unpredictable the platformer is.
Piranha Plants on Parade
Super Mario Bros Wonder – Piranha Plants on Parade - 100% All Wonder Seeds, Flower Coins & Flag

Read more